Explaining a Diagnosis to the Sibling of a Pediatric Patient

Last Modified: September 18, 2013


How do you explain to a sibling that her brother has brain cancer? What changes will there be?

Connie Didomenico, CRNP, Nurse Practitioner in Neuro-Oncology at the Childre's Hospital of Philadelphia, responds:


Explaining to any sibling that their brother or sister has cancer depends on the age of the child and their development. Starting out with statements like: the reason why your brother has not been feeling well is because the doctors found something that was growing that should not have been there. Then explaining what the next steps of what will be done to help that not grow back and stay away. Depending on the child, usually opening up with broad statements allows a child to ask their own questions to follow-up and gives them permission to ask. Each child is different and processes information at their own pace. Tapping into resources like social work and/or child life therapists can be helpful for the child with cancer and their siblings as well. They can help you to be creative with using play and art to explore difficult topics like this.